Ready for another generational difference? Try food allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children have increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011. Experts note that kids are not growing out of their food allergies, so employers need to be prepared as this group is just beginning to enter the workforce.
Currently, there are already approximately 15 million people with food allergies. As employees, many may struggle to manage their symptoms at work. Providing health insurance is an important benefit for allergy suffers as is making reasonable accommodations if necessary for certain employees.
Identify Employees with Food Allergies
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended in 2008 from its original form, making it easier for some food allergies to qualify as a disability and therefore some employees to receive protection under the ADA.
Add Food Allergy Education
An organization’s wellness program may be an ideal way to increase general companywide awareness of the issue. Incorporate training to educate all employees on food allergies and how to spot allergic reactions. Common symptoms may result in hives or nausea and can range to difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.
Common Food Allergies
The U.S. Department of Labor also suggests posting signs in food areas such as lunchrooms or common areas. List the eight foods that account for the most allergic reactions:
- Tree nuts
Adapting to Employees with Food Allergies in the Workplace
Employers may want to consider including food allergy information during the employee onboarding process. This provides an opportunity for new hires to let their supervisors know of their food allergy. As the only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid the problematic food – this can help a manager be better prepared and provide a safe workplace for all employees.
Source: Workforce. Rash of Food Allergies Prompts Education Push. July/August 2017. P 15.